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Behind the Iron Curtain

Soviet Estonia in the Era of the Cold War


Edited By Tõnu Tannberg

During the Cold War, Estonia lay behind the Iron Curtain. Even in the grip of Soviet rule, the country underwent many important developments. This volume brings together fourteen papers on the political, economic, and cultural history of Estonia during the Cold War. Their topics range from international relations and the border regime to tourism and the media. The papers are based on extensive archival research and make use of many previously unexamined documents. The resulting book offers new insights into the history of Estonia and of the Cold War on a local level.
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← 6 | 7 →Tõnu Tannberg

Upon emerging victoriously from World War II in 1945, the Soviet Union quickly established itself in Eastern Europe and subjected the regimes in that region to its almost complete control. Wartime cooperation with the Western countries disintegrated, and in its place, a new confrontation between the world’s superpowers developed—the Cold War. The Western powers were unable to contain Moscow’s program for expansion, and thus this confrontation persisted until the end of the 1980s, significantly affecting worldwide developments. The Soviet Union and its satellites, along with the Baltic countries that were once again occupied in 1944, were sealed off behind the “Iron Curtain.”

Cut off from the Western world, Estonia was subjected to the extensive Sovietization of community life and the muzzling of intellectual and spiritual life, the suppression of resistance, the implementation of repressions and the introduction of a Soviet-style command economy in the postwar years. The “thaw” following the death of Stalin brought a partial easing of the regime (a modification of the policy of violence and other such measures), economic progress, more active relations with the Western world, an increase in the standard of living, and improvement in people’s living conditions. Yet this did not mean that the Soviet Union was prepared to relax control over its spheres of influence in Eastern Europe, as the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising (1956) and the Prague Spring (1968) corroborated.

In the mid-1950s, it was understood in Estonia as...

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